Copy steal

I imagine most of us have those Oh Crap moments when we sit down at our computers or with our notebooks and pens (if you’re old school like me) and attempted to write content. It really doesn’t matter what it is—content for websites, product packages, sales materials or blogs or newsletters.

Creating something from nothing is daunting and can paralyze you before you write even one word. 

I remember as a young strategist the first time I sat down to write a creative brief I nearly had a heart attack. It was my job to craft this ever-important document that would inform and influence an advertising campaign, and I had no clue how to begin. No bueno.
 
Know what I did? I looked at old briefs written by strategists for other brands and copied as much as I could. Then I filled in the gaps and tweaked what I needed to for it to make sense. The first brief I wrote wasn’t a masterpiece, but it also wasn’t a total flop. Over time I got better at writing briefs, and now I can create one out of thin air. But that wasn’t always the case. I had to start somewhere, so I started by cheating off my peers. Thankfully there’s no detention in the advertising world.
 
Just the other day, I led a big brainstorm for one of my clients. We needed to come up with several potential claims and messages for his brand. First we looked at what our competitors were saying. That was good to know but not particularly mind-blowing or catalystic. So we decided to look outside our category and into everything from liquid plumbing to organic cosmetics to automobiles to energy drinks. We looked at their websites, their packages, their social media and their product reviews on Amazon. When it was time to come up with ideas for our brand, we literally stole, or stole and then tweaked, what all those other brands had to say. Granted we didn’t steal everything. We created brand new copy as well, but the exercise of stealing and tweaking undoubtedly acted as our catalyst for creation.
 
So yes, I recommended strategically stealing your copy—especially at first and especially if your resources are limited. Over time you’ll get better at crafting content. But in the meantime, don’t feel guilty.

If you really think about it, most everything, including what we think of as innovation, is a rip of something else. {Tweet it}

Steal. Then tweak. Then create something new.